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Pallone Highlights Passage of Legislation to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

October 4, 2018
Press Release

Long Branch, NJ – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) held a press conference at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch with local leaders and health professionals to highlight bipartisan legislation passed in Congress last week to expand access to treatment and make long-term progress in addressing the opioid epidemic. Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), the Ranking Member of the House and Energy Commerce Committee, was a lead House negotiator on H.R. 6: The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which was agreed on between House and Senate health leaders. The bill passed both the House and Senate in the last week and is on the President’s desk.

Participants in the event included Bill Arnold, CEO Monmouth Medical Center; Mary Abrams, Senior Health Policy Analyst, NJ Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies; Maureen McCarthy, President New Jersey Association of Nurse Anesthetists (NJANA); Heather Borbely, Federal Political Director, NJANA; Asm. Eric Houghtaling, Deputy Majority Leader; Jon Chebra, New Jersey Hospital Association.

“For several years now communities and healthcare providers and professionals in New Jersey have been on the frontlines of fighting the opioid epidemic. H.R, 6 will provide those fighting the epidemic with expanded tools to address this crisis that is ravaging every community in our nation,” Pallone said.  “Last year a record 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses – that’s about 200 people dying every day.  This is a national crisis that is devastating families and Congress must continue to act. 

Monmouth and Ocean Counties are among the highest 5 counties in New Jersey with substance abuse treatment admissions. In 2016, there were 1409 opioid-related overdose deaths­­­ in New Jersey. Heroin-related deaths rose from 97 deaths in 2010 to 850 deaths in 2016. In New Jersey, more than 184,000 individuals have been admitted to substance abuse treatment facilities for heroin or opioid abuse since 2010 and more than 5,000 have died from heroin-related deaths since 2004. 

The final bill also includes two provisions authored by Pallone.  The New Jersey congressman authored a provision that expands Medicare coverage of Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).  Currently, OTPs are not recognized as Medicare providers, meaning that beneficiaries receiving MAT at OTPs for their opioid use disorders must pay out-of-pocket. In 13 states, the highest rate of opioid-related inpatient hospital stays is among individuals over the age of 65. Under H.R. 6, Medicare will pay OTPs through bundled payments made for holistic services, including necessary medications, counseling, and testing.

Pallone also authored a provision known as the SCREEN Act, which will give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the ability to take action against illicit controlled substances coming in through International Mail Facilities across the country.  FDA will now be able to prohibit the importation of drugs by people who have repeatedly imported illicit drugs.  It also allows the agency to cease distribution of or recall controlled substances, like opioids, if they are endangering patients.     

The bill will expand the type of providers who can treat patients with buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD). Currently, only physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants can use buprenorphine (one of the drugs used in MAT) to treat patients with OUD. H.R. 6 would expand access to MAT by authorizing clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to treat up to 100 patients with OUD with buprenorphine for five years.

The bill also creates a grant program to provide funding to medical schools and teaching hospitals to help train providers to treat substance abuse disorders, expands Medicaid coverage for at-risk-youth and increases access to mental health and substance abuse disorder services to help prevent and mitigate the effects of trauma from addiction on children and youth.

H.R.6 allows Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) which are larger in patient treatment facilities to use Medicaid funding to care for patients. New Jersey was one of a handful of states that already had a federal Medicaid demonstration program for IMDs, now other states will be able to use Medicaid coverage for IMDs like New Jersey.